THE KHAMTIS OF ASSAM AND THEIR RELIGION WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE KHAMTIS OF LAKHIMPUR

THE KHAMTIS OF ASSAM AND THEIR RELIGION WITH
SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE KHAMTIS OF LAKHIMPUR
DISTRICT, ASSAM, INDIA
Uday Gogoi
Brahmaputra Valley Academy, North Lakhimpur, Assam 
 SUB-GROUPS OF THE KHAMTIS

     There are various classes among the Khamtis viz Luk-khun, Lung-king, Khong-yek, Khong-lung, Chaukhun, Chebhai, Khan-flu etc. Once on the socio-political angle the Khamtis were divided into two groups as – Lu-kam and Nuk-tai.

     The Khamtis who migrated into Assam belonged to all the seven principalities of Khamti-Long. The various sub-groups of the Khamtis are- Namsoom, Manchuj, LongKeng, Khankew, Simit, manlong, Monpong,Moungkang, Mounglang, Mein, Singkai, Longehot, Mannow, Mannoi and Manchuykhun.
 

ORIGIN OF THE TERM ‘KHAMTI’
  
     There are three versions regarding the origin and meaning of the term Khamti.
 
     The first version is regarding the etymological meaning of the term Khamti. The word Khamti is derived from ‘Kham’ and ‘Ti’ meaning ‘Gold’ and ‘Place’ respectively. The region Moulung or Maopung being very rich in minerals, especially in Gold, was known as Khamti and later on the people living there came to be known as Khamtis.
 
     The second version says that after pushing away the Tibetan Army and closing the Nai-Khoma pass of the Patkai range for ever, the Shan people lived in the Shan state peacefully for several centuries. For this region the Shan people residing in that region came to be known as Khamtis (‘Kham’ means to adhere to or stick to and ‘Ti’ means a place or country.)
 
     The third version Khamti is a royal title of the subordinate rulers given by the
sovereigns of Mung-kang.
                                               
PEOPLE

     Generally the Khamti people are both dark skinned and fair complexioned. As
they are of Tai origin Tai mongoloid features are found in them like other section of Tai
or Shans.

     Butler describes the appearance of the Khamti people as middle sized having
greater similarity with the Chinese than any other tribe in the northeastern part of India.
He highly appreciates them as being active and gifted with intelligence, ‘screwed war like
looking race of men, but there is a sinister expression mixed with a peculiar severity,
pervading their countenances that leave anything but a favorable impression of the
benevolence of their dispositions’.


OCCUPATION

    The Khamti people are generally good agriculturists. But at present they are engaged in different sectors like govt. service and small businesses.


FOOD 

     Rice is the staple diet of the people. They also eat pulses and make use of some species. They eat fish, meat, vegetables, parts of locally grown plants like makat (cabage, Brassica oleracea), emzhim (coriander, Coriardrum sativum), phoiham (basil, Ocimum basilicum), pluching(jute leaf, Corcharus capsularis) and khumphat(neem, Azadiracta indica) and they also use herbs to spice up their food.

DRESS

     The traditional costumes of the Khamtis are very similar to the Burmese. Men wear a blue cotton jacket and a short kilt of checked cloth or silk, which looks like a plaid and a woman’s dress is almost the same and the difference being that that they wear a cloth tightly bound round the chest and tied under the arms instead of the jacket.
 
     But presently, the usually worn dress of the Khamtis is simple and neat. Man generally wears a Lungi (Fa-noy), a jacket (fa-chyu) and a turban of thin white cloth. Women use Mekhela (Chi-enu), Riha (Lang-wat), a long sleeve jacket (Chy)’.
 
                                                          
 RESIDENTIAL PATTERN

     Generally the houses (hoon) of the Khamtis are built on platforms several feet above the ground which is called Changghar. The houses are reached by means of a ladder which is often the noted trunk of a tree. Normally platforms are of bamboos or timbers. All family members except married people live together in the same room (hoon-ting-tinang). But now-a-days Assam type houses (pucca) are also constructed. The
Khamti people constructed the houses after the selection of a site for the main postphinam, because they believe that it should be located in a place from all kinds of impurity.


      Usually every house of the Khamtis has a veranda (tooptai) and a prayer place (paitra) in the front side. Houses are consist of sleeping area called hoon-tinam, a kitchen-hoon totankhaw, a corridor – Chanon which connects the main dwelling and the cooking area and a washing place for utensils and other things.